My husband came home with a little story from work about what happened at the monthly staff meeting of 4,000 people. It made me realize that recent college graduates and people returning to the workplace after being gone for ten or more years may be in for a shock when they realize what it means to “work a job at a company.”
Here is the tale…
The CEO of the technology company that my husband works for has a monthly staff meeting with all the employees. During this staff meeting, a new employee, one who has worked roughly around two weeks decided to take the microphone as she had an important matter to discuss with her.
She voiced to the CEO that soy milk is not being provided for free at the company. The CEO said that she should address the issue with her managers. She said that she did and they were not responsive to her request so she is “escalating the issue” (a popular catch phrase at the company). As a perk, the company offers free white milk and chocolate milk for the employees. The newbie felt that since she had a dairy allergy, she was entitled to free soy milk because that is fair.
Soy milk is not an issue. Issues have to do with the profitability of the company. Soy milk should not be discussed at an all staff meeting. It does not need to be “escalated”. The company does not need to provide you with anything. Like all “perks” from a company, some employees will enjoy them while others will not.
You are at the company because your function contributes to the bottom line either directly or indirectly. Your personal needs and preferences are not of interest to the company. The company does attempt to attract and retain employees by offering incentives quality insurance, vacation time, and for this particular company free milk. If the company’s amenities are not of interest to you, then seek employment elsewhere.
The blunder of this new employee made is that she is equating “perks” as part of her employment agreement. No company is going to promise you milk or other “perks” for your service. They will promise you your salary and your vacation time.
LET’S LOOK AT MORE BLUNDERS BY NEW EMPLOYEES SHALL WE?
Scenario 1 – Constant Overtime
“Doesn’t your boss know you have a family?” I heard one wife say to her husband regarding his constant overtime. Yes, your boss probably knows you have a family. However, your boss did not hire you because you have a family. Your boss hired you for the sole purpose of completing given tasks. It is your job to ensure that those tasks are completed. Your family situation is irrelevant to your employer. Either you can do your job or you cannot. If you cannot, then he will find someone who can complete the tasks. It is a wise idea to inquire about overtime when you receive an offer letter if this is going to pose a problem to your family. Ask questions regarding the frequency of overtime.
Scenario 2 – Exceptionally Late Overtime
I had a boss who thought nothing of staying until 10pm to finish work. She naturally expected that her employees would stay until 10pm as well. She informed them when she interviewed them that there would be much overtime in the beginning of the job because she was revamping the department. One husband called his wife and told her she had to come home when it was 10pm and she was still at work. Her husband was not familiar with the standards of marketing and advertising jobs where overtime can even go all night long if something needs to be prepared for the client. Once again, what might seem “outrageous” to you regarding overtime might be commonplace in a given field.
Scenario 2 – Weekend Overtime
Not everyone associates overtime with working weekends. Some people make the assumption that overtime can be limited to during the week or specific days. Not so. Tax accountants work at least one day during the weekend in tax season. That is standard for the profession. Exceptions are not made. Thus, if your best friend is getting married during tax season and you are a new tax accountant, make sure you tell her that you will not be attending the wedding.
In matters pertaining to travel, have a keen understanding of what “may” be required pertaining to travel. After receiving an offer letter ask if air travel may be a possibility or if you will be required to use your own vehicle for business travel. If you have difficulty driving in rain or snow or on the highway, you must be aware that this too may be required in your job. Your company does not have to continue your employment because you are afraid to get on a plane. Thus, do not assume that your boss will “understand” or it will be “okay” if you have phobia of flying or cannot drive on highways.
All workplaces have a uniform of sorts. There are acceptable clothes to wear to work and outfits that are not appropriate. Most companies outline the appropriate attire for the work environment. These mandates apply to you. They apply to you regardless of the weather, if you are expecting a child, not seeing clients, or if you have gained/lost weight. The exception is usually if you are working on the weekend at the office. If you are still unsure, look at your boss as the standard and opt for something similar. Jewelry and makeup (and nail polish) should be kept to a minimum. Generally tattoos should be covered.
Understanding your job (or not):
There may aspects of your job that you do not enjoy. Perhaps in college you were able to obtain an “alternate” assignment if you did not like the original one. This does not translate into the business arena. Your job is what you are asked to do by your boss. This could include learning new software or assuming duties that not part of your original job description. While this can be frustrating, it is not uncommon. What can be frustrating is that you are now evaluated on new skills which you may not be your strength. If you realize that you are not able to handle the new demands of the company including new skill sets but also perhaps mandatory overtime or required business travel, update your resume and seek employment elsewhere. Thus, it is possible to go from a position that requires no travel to one that requires travel. I had a position that required travel about once a year to one that required travel every week for six months. I had a new boss who changed the scope of the job. Could I report my boss to human resources? Of course not, I had a choice to make, either obtain new employment or stay with the company and travel every week.
Having vacation time and taking vacation are two different scenarios. A company may give you vacation time, but you may only be able to use it at certain times of the year or under certain circumstances. Once such example is that someone from a given department must be in the office at all times. Thus, if you are expecting to take time off around Christmas, you may be unable to take vacation because the vacation requests of more senior employees may be honored first.
A company may insist that you take a week at a time, and not individual days too. A company could prevent you from taking two weeks off in a row. Some companies require advanced notice, such as four weeks to approve vacation days. Ask specific questions about the vacation policy after you receive your acceptance letter so that you will not be surprised later.
You may feel that you have gone above and beyond at your job during the past 12 months. You may feel entitled to a 10% raise. You may have deserved a 10% raise. You may only get a 4% raise. Many companies have internal policies that apply to everyone. If the greatest raise that a company is giving in a given year is 4% then you will be subject to the 4% raise cap too. Additionally, some companies only have a raise period once per year, if you have not worked at the company for 12 months by this point in time, you may be ineligible for a raise. Yes, this is not fair. I will agree. Some companies do not guarantee raise every year.
This is not your boss’ fault. He does not design the company policies. He implements them. I would suggest not lessening your job performance since you do not know what the raise will be like the following year and you want to receive the maximum raise possible. Moreover, you are not forced to work at this company. The company does not “owe” you. You can always take your skill set elsewhere and market yourself in hopes of landing a job that pays better.
Too much information:
Americans tend to offer way too much personal information. Business conversations at work or with clients should not engage in such “insightful” conversation. Discussing the Super Bowl is one thing. Stating how much alcohol you consumed and how intoxicated you were is not appealing. It might make some managers question your judgment.
Since sexual harassment is a hotly discussed topic in business and many companies not only have sexual harassment training sessions but also stringent policies. It is best to guard your comments especially in mixed company. Moreover, not everyone has the same sense of humor. I once received roses at work from the guy I was dating at the time. I had not mentioned to my coworkers at my workplace that I was seeing anyone. My female colleague saw the roses and inquired whom they were from and then said “the sex must have been great last night”. I was so embarrassed by her comment; I think I turned the color of the roses. If a guy has said the same comment I would have been even more uncomfortable.
Many people do meet their future mates at the workplace. However, flirting and glancing are best saved for outside the work environment. Many women do feel uncomfortable when leered at or when men make comments regarding the physical appearance of other women.
As a new hire, if you focus more on what you can do for the company than what the company can do for you, you will be off to a great start. Take your cues from managers you respect and do not hesitate to ask more senior coworkers questions regarding what is considered “appropriate” at your workplace. If you do find out that your company does not offer soy milk either for free or in the cafeteria, purchase an insulated lunch bag and a cold pack. You can bring individual serving sizes to work. If you local grocery store does not carry individual servings of soy milk, than you can “escalate the issue” to the manager of the grocery store.
Negotiate A Severance Package: Don’t quit your job, get laid off and negotiate a severance package instead. Negotiating a severance enabled me to receive six years worth of living expenses from a company I dedicated 11 years of my life to. If I had quit, I wouldn’t get any severance, deferred compensation, medical benefits, job assistance training or unemployment benefits and neither will you. I believe so strongly in the message of never quitting that I spent a couple years writing this 100-page book entitled, “How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye.” I’m absolutely certain this book will help you recognize your rights as an employee and break free from the corporate grind to do something you truly want to do.
Updated for 2015